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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Facts About Wagons

Photo Credit: http://wheelsthatwonthewest.

In writing my book I ran into the fact that my characters use wagons to get around town--when they're not on horseback. I have no experience with wagons so I did some research on them to learn the names of the parts and how a person would go about climbing into a wagon (I guessed there would be a step but I wasn't sure).

My favorite website I found in researching wagons is a PDF written by Kelsie Harder: http://www.canvocta.org/PDF/A%20Vocabulary%20of%20Wagon%20Parts.pdf

Some of the wagon terminology I learned is:

  • Axle- The wooden bar that is placed under the running gear and on which the wheels are set; each wagon has two axles.
  • Bed- All sides of the structure set on the frame, usually called wagon bed.
  • Brake or Block- A thick piece of wood attached to the brake beam; serves when pulled against the back wheel to slow or stop the wagon.
  • Brought-on Wagon- A wagon that was bought from a manufacturer.
  • Dry out- To lose moisture, as the wooden parts of the wheels.
  • Fifth Wheel- An iron-sliding bar in the shape of a circle placed on the front running gear in order to give the front of the wagon free play in turning or in being guided.
  • Front Gate- Removable front portion of the wagon bed.
  • Sand Bed- A wagon bed with half sides; used when sand is being hauled.
  • Side Boards- Removable sides of the wagon bed. The bed is referred to as a double bed when two side boards are in place, etc.
  • Sun Cracks- Cracks that appear in a wooden hub; split places caused by the weight pressure exerted on the hub.
  • Tail Gate- Removable back portion of the wagon.
  • Tongue- A long, heavy piece of wood used to guide the wagon; it is usually square but tapered toward the front. With metal slats attached to the sides.
Look up Kelsie Harder's PDF to learn many more wagon terms.

And for those who are wondering--not only do wagons have steps, but you can even buy them on E-bay.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Outlining My Way Through, Steps 5-10

Picture Credit: http://www.cartoonstock.com/

This is the last blog in my outlining series. See also my introduction posting here.

The first 4 steps of the process can be viewed here.

Tonight I'm going through steps 5-8. Of Dan Well's outlining system. You can also watch his You-Tube video on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcmigQ9NpPE

As with the last blog, the examples I use here are all going to come from Harry Potter, Book 1 because so many people are familiar with it and it is a good example.

Step 5- Plot Turn 2

This plot turn gives the hero the last piece he needs to successfully bring about the resolution just when the resolution seems impossible.  In stories with a happy ending, it can usually be summed up with the statement: The power is in you.

  • Harry finds the stone is in his pocket.
Step 6- Pinch 1

Something goes wrong to force the hero into action and introduce danger.  The hero must be shaped and prepared for the resolution he must later bring about by this pinch, which he must be forced to handle on his own. 
  • Harry and his friends confront the troll.

Step 7- Pinch 2

This makes the situation hopeless.  It makes readers worry there is no way the hero can win, and is often the loss of a mentor.
  • Harry leaves his friends behind to face Voldemort alone.

After this completing this exercise, you will have a skeleton of the main plot of the book.
  1. Hook: Harry has a sad and boring life.
  2. Plot Turn 1: Harry travels to Hogwarts.
  3. Pinch 1: Harry and his friends confront the troll.
  4. Midpoint: Harry and his friends learn the truth about the sorcerer’s stone.
  5. Pinch 2: Harry leaves his friends behind to face Voldemort alone.
  6. Plot Turn 2: Harry finds the stone is in his pocket.
  7. Resolution: Harry defeats Voldemort.

Step 8- Create Subplots

Each story will also have vital subplots.  Determine which subplots are needed to support the main plot and complete steps 1-7 for each of the subplots. 
            Subplot Categories: Action, Character Development, Romance, Betrayal, etc.

Step 9- Try / Fail Cycles

The hero (and potentially the side characters) must have try/fail cycles to earn a victory.  This gains appreciation from the audience when they are victorious in the end.  If the hero is an “invincible” character, he or she can have try/fail cycles that appear to be victories, but still do not get him or her the goal.  This also keeps the hero’s goals fresh in the audiences mind through new adventures rather than a continual re-hash of what they already know.

The Princess Bride has good examples of both types of try/fail cycles
  • Inigo Montoya spends the entire movie attempting to avenge his father.
  • The Man in Black attempts to rescue Buttercup.  Even though he is successful in the majority of his battles, they don’t result in her rescue.

Step 10- Charting Your Outline

After completing skeletons for each of the subplots and planning the try/fail cycles, create a chart showing which scenes in the book each will be furthered.  The more subplots and try/fail cycles furthered in a scene, the more powerful that scene will be.  Scenes that only further one category will pace the story and keep it moving.  Subplots and try/fail cycles do not have to begin at the start of the book or resolve at the end, but if a lot of emphasis is put on them, readers will expect them to be resolved at the end rather than in the middle.

Main Plot
Subplot 1
Subplot 2
Subplot 3
Try/Fail 1
Try/Fail 2



Plot Turn 1


Pinch 1
Plot Turn 1
Plot Turn 1


Pinch 1
Plot Turn 1

Pinch 1


Pinch 2
Pinch 1

Plot Turn 2

Pinch 2

Pinch 2

Pinch 2

Plot Turn 2
Plot Turn 2

Plot Turn 2




As a reminder--I love using this to help set up the story before I write, but it can also be used as an editing tool after the book is written. In that case, you would go through the same process to evaluate the strength of your plot. If you are writing a series of connected books (versus books that each stand alone) then do this process for each book and for the series as a whole.

That's it on outlining! Thanks for staying with me through this series of blogs. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Outlining My Way Through, Steps 1-4

Picture Credit: http://less
In the introduction to this series of blogs, I talked about why I am big on outlining now. See it here.  In this blog I'm going to talk specifically about Dan Wells' 7-Point Story Structure, which can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcmiqQ9NpPE

Here it is:
  1. Hook
  2. Plot Turn 1
  3. Pinch 1
  4. Midpoint
  5. Pinch 2
  6. Plot Turn 2
  7. Resolution
This is the order that it appears in stories, not the order that you go in when planning/evaluating the plot. As I go through the steps, I'll use examples from Harry Potter Book 1 because most people are familiar with it.

Step 1- Resolution

Begin building your story by determining the ending. The resolution is the main point of the story. It may be based on plot (which ends with an "explosion") or character (which ends with a change to the character). Powerful stories have both plot and character resolutions, but right now we are focusing only on the main plot. Subplots will come later, so pick the one that you most want to emphasize. For the rest of the examples below I am going with Harry Potter's plot resolution, but as fun practice, you can put together what the outline would be for the character resolution line.
  • Plot resolution example- Harry defeats Voldemort.
  • Character resolution example- Harry learns he is strong enough to fight alone.

Step 2- Hook

This should be the opposite state of the resolution because the story is how the resolution came about.
  • Harry has a sad and boring life.

Step 3- Midpoint

This is where the hero begins moving from reaction to action. This point is where they commit to the task needed to bring about the resolution.
  • Harry and his friends learn the truth about the sorcerer's stone.

Step 4- Plot Turn 1

 This is where the story gets started. It is the first movement the hero makes toward the midpoint.
  • Harry travels to Hogwarts.

That's enough for tonight. In my next blog I'll take you through the next steps.
See it here

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Outlining My Way Through, Introduction

Picture Credit: http://www.tinamoss.com/2013/01/
I have enough to say about outlining that I'm not going to try doing this one in a single posting. I never considered outlining to be for me and I went through draft after draft of my book without anything more than an basic plan for the overall plot in my head. For the most part, anything that happened was as much a surprise for me as for my characters. I enjoyed the idea of discovering the story with them and through them.

Unfortunately, draft after draft had HUGE holes that I didn't see until after I finished because I was too close to the story to look at it objectively. I will never say that everyone must do an outline before they write. Each writer must decide what does and doesn't work for him or her. But I can say without a doubt that I have been converted to being an outliner.

During a writers' conference, I attended a class taught by Dan Wells about Story Structure and Outlining. I have to admit that when I showed up I didn't think there would be much I could get out of it. What was I to learn from a horror writer who lived by outlines when I wrote fantasy and wanted nothing to do with outlines?

During his class, Dan Wells opened my eyes to a system of outlining that I had never considered. I was amazed at how applicable it was. He pointed out that it could be used in the initial planning stage of a book or as a way to evaluate the plot after it was written. At the time, I was certain I would continue writing as I always had and use his outlining tool as a way to evaluate my plot during the editing.

When I evaluated the plot of my book (which I thought at the time was almost ready for a publisher) using his outlining structure, I found to my astonishment that it did not have a point! Not only did it have major holes, but I could not specify what the plot was.

Since then I have re-written my book after having outlined a planed story structure. I can't sing Dan Wells' praises enough. In the next few postings I will go through his outlining method and how it helped me. But he has posted it on You-Tube. It's a five-part video and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to write.


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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Late Nights Can be Productive

Picture Credit: http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/m/
Well, here I am again--looking down at the clock on my computer every half hour--but late night or not, I've been able to get a lot done tonight. I finished getting my different social networking sites running last night, but I didn't get them linked together. It's taken me longer than I would have liked tonight, but finishing feels good.

I even learned how to create my own button to lead people to this blog from my other sites! Thank heavens for Google and Amy Lynn Andrews' blog on how to do it. Thanks, Amy. http://bloggingwithamy.com/how-to-make-a-blog-button/

I can't count the nights that I've stayed up longer than I should to get things finished! But I'd rather get things done in one night than stretch it into two.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Persistence is the Key

Picture Credit: http://mikemichalowicz.com/how-to-be-the-master-of-professional-persistence/
The first thing I've learned in this process is to be persistent! I can't tell you how many times I've been tempted to give up, but as I keep plodding along, I'm finding that the process can be fun even when it is long. It's been a fun ride, and I wouldn't trade it.